Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jen Rereads The Naked Mole-Rat Letters

On Friday, I talked about how rereading is different for us whether we reread minutes, days, or years later. We will be different readers when we reread no matter what. When a lot of time goes by, we are definitely different people when we reread. I first read The Naked Mole-Rat Letters in October of 2009 when I had only had one son and he was two. I remember laughing hysterically at this book and thinking how funny the main character, Frankie, is. She's still funny, but since reading The Naked Mole-Rat Letters the first time, I have read Mary Amato's book Please Write In This Book and that once two-year-old son is now a kindergartner. I love reading books about writing and was so excited to read Please Write In This Book but I was a bit disappointed. It's a cute premise: the teacher puts a notebook in the writing corner and kids are asked to write in it, but it seemed like the students weren't treating each other very nicely in the book and the teacher didn't seem worried about it. When I read Please Write In This Book, it was November 2012 and I had two sons, one of which was in kindergarten. Maybe I'm being a little too critical but it bothered me that the kids could be so nasty to each other and it wasn't addressed by the teacher, especially knowing that I send my first-born child off to school and I don't want to think about bad things happening to him at school. As I reread The Naked Mole-Rat Letters and I was more bothered by the decisions Frankie makes in the book compared to when I first read it. They bothered me a little bit before but this time around I was so much more aware. I had to remind myself that it's realistic for kids to make unwise decisions and that in the end, Frankie does have to pay the consequences for her decisions. Ultimately, it's about young readers and I think they will relate to Frankie.

We are definitely different people when we reread because of our experiences but we are also different readers because of our experiences with books. I've been thinking about how many books I've read since 2009...and it's a lot of books. I really think that having read so many books, I judge books differently now. Books I once thought were excellent are still great books but when I reread, I'm realizing they may not be as amazing as I once thought they were. I love thinking about my reactions to books as I reread. It's very meta but also very eye-opening!

Title: The Naked Mole-Rat Letters
Author: Mary Amato 
Illustrator: Heather Saunders
Publisher: Holiday House 
Publication Date: June, 2005 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: When her father begins a long-distance romance with a Washington, D.C. zookeeper, twelve-year-old Frankie sends fabricated email letters to the zookeeper in an attempt to end the relationship, in this story about family, friendship, and growing up. 
What I Think: Mary Amato does a great job with her main character, Frankie. She's hysterical. She freaks out when her dad seems to be falling in love with a woman he met on a business trip. She seriously freaks out...and while I don't really agree with many decisions she makes, I can at least recognize why she makes those decisions. And we all make mistakes so it's okay. I think kids will crack up because when I say she freaks out, she really does freak out. The best part is that Frankie is such a funny character when she's freaking out. Her personality and her reactions to things that are happening come to life with Mary Amato's great writing. I love the similes the most and they are what made me laugh the most because each one made me visualize something so funny. I just love them. Frankie can also be very dramatic and exaggerate and that cracks me up, too.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 8 
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 8 
Read With: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner, Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger, Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt, Audition & Subtraction by Amy Fellner Dominy, Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jenni Holm, Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle 
Snatch of Text:  
"How can a person be horrified and glad at the same time? It's like drinking something that's as foul as poison and as fizzy as soda." (p. 3)
"Now I know what Ms. Young meant when she said information is power. Reading this secret information both scares me and makes me feel like I could lift a truck with my bare hands." (p. 3)
"Nutter screamed and jumped off me like I was a mummy rising from a grave." (p. 18)
"I should have known that Mr. Peter wouldn't let me go to the bathroom. Mr. Peter is not a living, breathing human being with a heart that has attacks. Mr. Peter is a battery-operated calculator in the shape of a human being." (p. 21)
"Nutter looked at me as if I'd shot him in the heart with a spear." (p. 65)
"How could I review for a test when the Big Bang of bad news was exploding in my brain?" (p. 81)
"Although I am hungry enough to gnaw off my own right arm, I am going to refrain so that I can write down everything that has happened since 3:00 P.M." (p. 106)
"I'd like to talk to someone about all this, but who? I can't talk to Beth. She doesn't get it. I feel like I'm the last of my species alive on the face of the earth." (p. 123)
"I was hoping that a colorful lie would descend like a hot-air balloon from the heavens onto the gray and deserted road of my mind. Nothing came." (p. 131)
"I looked very calm on the outside; but I was experiencing a major interior earthquake. The techtonic (techtonik? tectonic?) plates of my soul were pulling apart. Everything was buckling and shifting and cracking up inside me. I put a hand on the sink to steady myself." (p. 173)
Mentor Text For: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Voice, Characterization, Similes, Descriptive, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you made a decision that you regretted. How did you deal with the consequences of your decisions? 
Topics Covered: Family, Friends, Siblings, Mistakes, Love, Honesty, Trust, Decision-Making, Communication, Emotions 
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